Putting the geology back into Earth models



New digital methods for data capture can now provide photorealistic, spatially precise, and geometrically accurate three-dimensional (3-D) models of rocks exposed at the Earth's surface [Xu et al., 2000; Pringle et al., 2001; Clegg et al., 2005]. These “virtual outcrops” have the potential to create a new form of laboratory-based teaching aids for geoscience students, to help address accessibility issues in fieldwork, and generally to improve public awareness of the spectacular nature of geologic exposures from remote locations worldwide.

This article addresses how virtual outcrops can provide calibration, or a quantitative “reality check,” for a new generation of high-resolution predictive models for the Earth's subsurface.